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Free speech is just exactly that

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas

My occasional cohort on these pages did an experiment with a chatbot, assigning it an essay on free speech.

I know that it’s ironic that a program was writing about freedom, but hey, it’s an experiment.

The upshot of the four-paragraph screed was that freedom of speech wasn’t absolute and needed to have limits placed on it for the public good.

It’s the “Your right to swing your arms ends at my nose” argument, saying individual and national safety trumps individual rights.

I get the reasoning, having grown up hearing that I couldn’t scream “Fire” in a theater; but unless your intent is chaos, no one really would do that, because the end result would make the perpetrator criminally and civilly liable. Besides, it would be just as easy to pull the fire alarm, and speech wouldn’t be brought into it.

The reasoning that other people’s safety is my responsibility before the fact is where my problem lies in the scenario. It was the same with vaccine mandates and being told your health is my responsibility.

The problem here lies also with the determination of what actually constitutes a violation of public safety, and who or what makes that determination.

The other problem is the U.S. Bill of Rights, which states that Congress shall make no law abridging free speech, which mean it can’t be done, not even a little.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that limits aren’t being placed on speech in certain arenas, most particularly the realm of social media.

After Elon Musk bought Twitter, it was found, to virtually little surprise, that there was a large-scale effort to surreptitiously keep certain information away from the public. The variety of information in question cut quite a wide swath — from presidential corruption to medical opinions regarding vaccinations and the efficacy of drugs, etc. — and anything deemed remotely offensive, against the current zeitgeist or politically incorrect was banned, or at least quietly downplayed.

Then, there seems to be a matter of the possible interference of federal agencies, which have been “suggesting” that certain posts be removed or downplayed, such as the Hunter Biden laptop or COVID shots. If this couldn’t be done, then the nuclear option of locking a poster out of the account.

It wasn’t just Twitter, either. I myself have been hit with the censor bat on my personal Facebook account over something as silly as the teeny tiny garter snake I slayed to save my queen. Many of my friends who share my political outlook have been placed in social media jail for their posts on all things political.

The issue here again is that what was banned was decided by someone, and mostly because it offended the current thinking, or someone’s moral code was crossed, and almost always involves conservative thoughts and comments.

This leads us to the premise that limits — any limits — not only cross the threshold of abridging speech, but also sets up the government to be that arbiter; either speech is free, or it is not, because once someone can decide what speech is wrong speech, then soon all speech will be wrong.

For instance, very recently the senator from Maryland, Ben Cardin, said that hate speech isn’t protected under the First Amendment. In this day and age, pretty much everything written or spoken will offend someone, so all you have to do is call it hate speech and boom! No more talking from you, hate boy.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok et al are non-government entities and should be able to moderate their platforms. They also should make sure that is well understood, so that users can proceed appropriately. They should not now nor ever bow to the will of a government bent on controlling a narrative, because speech either is free or it isn’t.

Tony Farkas is editor of the San Jacinto News-Times and Trinity County News-Standard. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Why bringing the law into this or that is wrong

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In yet another trip down the road to superfluous nonsense, earlier this month our vaunted federal leaders decided that since they respect marriage, that there needed to be a law forcing everyone to do the same.

It makes sense, I guess, since 26 years ago these (mostly) same people passed the Defense of Marriage Act, which essentially defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. This, in turn denied same-sex couples the same latitude as traditional couples, such as employment benefits, inheritance, etc.

Since wokeness is an even more epidemial nightmare than the latest strain of COVID, Congress and President Biden succumbed and now there is the Respect for Marriage Act, which takes the Defense of Marriage Act and stomps on its bigoted little heart.

Champagne corks were popped, people were clapping and there was much rejoicing, since now the government is on the side of truth, justice and moral integrity, and anyone can marry anyone else they want, because marriage is sacred etc., etc.

Even though there were naysayers, nowhere in this debate that I can find did someone ask the real obvious question, “Why does this (or any other) government need to interfere in this?”

Many of you can attest to this: In my first marriage, I was required to not only get permission in the form of a license (?) to get married, but I was also required (??) to submit the results of a blood test. A state-ordered and -sanctioned medical procedure.

As of 2019, there are no states left that require the blood test, but every state (probably every country as well) requires a prospective couple to get a financed permission slip from the county (based on state law) to get hitched.

My concern here isn’t that the feds yet again waded into the middle of something as personal as a marriage, but that the government has anything at all to do with this.

Why are we required to get permission to get married? This is a civil institution, usually blessed through a religion. Would my current wife, whom I love dearly, be any less my wife if I didn’t have the proper paperwork? Would my vows be any less heartfelt, or my commitment any less intense, if I didn’t have a signed, stamped and filed license?

There are only two reasons I can think of for a government to need this kind of information, and they are control and money. Money is obvious, in that in order for you to get permission to get married, you have to pay for it.

Control is incredibly insidious, but even more pervasive. The government now has access to your information, and has the final say on yes or no. There are even states that suggest — very strenuously — that you attend marriage classes to learn how to be married.

The people that perform the ceremonies must be authorized for that. If you want your benefits to include your partner, you must conform to the laws which govern businesses (including insurance companies), and the license is required if you want to pass on your inheritance to your partner.

All of this is not the purview of our government, and completely unnecessary, and given that government causes more problems when it is in charge of things, it should step aside.

Tony Farkas is editor of the Trinity County News-Standard and the San Jacinto News-Times. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Why bringing the law into this or that is wrong

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In yet another trip down the road to superfluous nonsense, earlier this month our vaunted federal leaders decided that since they respect marriage, that there needed to be a law forcing everyone to do the same.

It makes sense, I guess, since 26 years ago these (mostly) same people passed the Defense of Marriage Act, which essentially defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. This, in turn denied same-sex couples the same latitude as traditional couples, such as employment benefits, inheritance, etc.

Since wokeness is an even more epidemial nightmare than the latest strain of COVID, Congress and President Biden succumbed and now there is the Respect for Marriage Act, which takes the Defense of Marriage Act and stomps on its bigoted little heart.

Champagne corks were popped, people were clapping and there was much rejoicing, since now the government is on the side of truth, justice and moral integrity, and anyone can marry anyone else they want, because marriage is sacred etc., etc.

Even though there were naysayers, nowhere in this debate that I can find did someone ask the real obvious question, “Why does this (or any other) government need to interfere in this?”

Many of you can attest to this: In my first marriage, I was required to not only get permission in the form of a license (?) to get married, but I was also required (??) to submit the results of a blood test. A state-ordered and -sanctioned medical procedure.

As of 2019, there are no states left that require the blood test, but every state (probably every country as well) requires a prospective couple to get a financed permission slip from the county (based on state law) to get hitched.

My concern here isn’t that the feds yet again waded into the middle of something as personal as a marriage, but that the government has anything at all to do with this.

Why are we required to get permission to get married? This is a civil institution, usually blessed through a religion. Would my current wife, whom I love dearly, be any less my wife if I didn’t have the proper paperwork? Would my vows be any less heartfelt, or my commitment any less intense, if I didn’t have a signed, stamped and filed license?

There are only two reasons I can think of for a government to need this kind of information, and they are control and money. Money is obvious, in that in order for you to get permission to get married, you have to pay for it.

Control is incredibly insidious, but even more pervasive. The government now has access to your information, and has the final say on yes or no. There are even states that suggest — very strenuously — that you attend marriage classes to learn how to be married.

The people that perform the ceremonies must be authorized for that. If you want your benefits to include your partner, you must conform to the laws which govern businesses (including insurance companies), and the license is required if you want to pass on your inheritance to your partner.

All of this is not the purview of our government, and completely unnecessary, and given that government causes more problems when it is in charge of things, it should step aside.

Tony Farkas is editor of the Trinity County News-Standard and the San Jacinto News-Times. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Committee concerned with state money matters

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Trent Ashbyby Trent Ashby

With the holidays upon us, we’re immersed with reasons to celebrate. And while the end of December is perhaps the busiest time of year, it’s my hope that, amidst all of the fanfare and pageantry, we take a moment to be still and recenter ourselves on why we have reason to celebrate — Christ’s coming into the world so that He might offer up His life as a sacrifice for the sins of men.

As we prepare our hearts and minds for Christmas and the New Year, I want to share with you a verse that I strive to carry with me throughout the holiday season: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” — Isaiah 9:6.

With that, we’ll dive back into our examination of House interim charges.

The House Committee on Pensions, Investments & Financial Services oversees the financial obligations of all public retirement systems within the state, the state banking system, and the regulation of securities and investments.

The Committee also has purview over several state agencies, such as the Texas Department of Banking, the Texas Emergency Services Retirement System, and the State Pension Review Board.

During the interim, the Committee will continue to monitor the agencies under its jurisdiction and monitor the implementation of relevant legislation passed in the most recent legislative session.

For example, HB 1585 made several changes to the Texas Retirement System of Texas to effectively make it easier for TRS retirees to return to work, which was especially important during the pandemic.

Another bill, SB 1444, allows local school districts to choose their healthcare plans to save employees money on premiums and deductibles. The bill also requires regional education service centers to establish an advisory committee to conduct a study assessing health care needs and health coverage options currently available to employees of school districts.

The Committee on Pensions, Investments & Financial Services has also been charged with reviewing several retirement funds to ensure proper governance and financial oversight. The review includes evaluating the Employees Retirement System (ERS) and Teacher Retirement System (TRS) pension funds, the Texas Local Fire Fighters Retirement Act, the Law Enforcement and Custodial Officer Supplemental Retirement Fund, and the Judicial Retirement System of Texas.

The Committee has also been tasked with evaluating public retirement systems and other trust funds in businesses controlled by the Russian government or Russian nationals. The Committee will determine the need for investment restrictions and consider the impact of any proposed investment restrictions on fund performance.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can help you in any way. My district office may be reached at (936) 634-2762. Additionally, I welcome you to follow along on my Official Facebook Page, where I will post regular updates on what’s happening in your State Capitol and share information that could be useful to you and your family: https://www.facebook.com/RepTrentAshby/.

Trent Ashby represents District 9, which includes Trinity County, in the Texas Legislature.

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Do you want fries with that?

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Mollie LaSalleBy Mollie LaSalle
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I recently went to a nameless fast-food restaurant the other day and placed my order at the drive-through. I ordered a large drink and a cheeseburger; that’s all I wanted. The young man then proceeded to ask me if I wanted regular fries or curly fries, to which I replied “I don’t want any fries”. He said “Okay, please pull around to the window and I will have your total.”

I could see where this was going. I pull up to the window, and again, he asks me do I want regular fries or curly fries. Again, I state in plain English that I do not want any fries, as I will not eat them. He says that it would be cheaper to get the meal, and I again told him, no thank you. He had a puzzled look on his face and asked his manager what he should do. The manager asked if I was sure I didn’t want the meal (with fries). I said please just give me what I ordered and that was all I wanted. Long story short, I drove away with my drink and burger, after being asked umpteen times why I did not want the fries.

I have worked in fast food (many, many moons ago), and I know these workers are just doing their job. It is drilled into their head to “suggestive sell” to every customer. This is mildly infuriating to me; it’s like I don’t know what I want when I order a large drink and a cheeseburger. The question used to be “do you want fries with that?” Now they ask you do you want the meal and what kind of fries, or tater tots, or onion rings or an apple pie. They want you to purchase all these extra items, which you do not ask for and will not eat. Just please charge me for what I ordered so I can get out of your drive-thru.

Not too many years ago, a big fast-food chain had a slogan which was “Have it your way”. That has been replaced with “Have it our way”. Just about a week ago, I went inside to order some breakfast to take to work with me. I frequent this establishment every other day or so, alternating with another big-name restaurant up the street. This particular morning, I paid with spare coins that I had saved in a jar. The cashier looked a little perplexed but took my coins and gave me my order. I don’t think that they like getting copious amounts of change; I guess I should have whipped out a plastic card and paid that way.

Fast forward to yesterday, and I am at the drive thru, and I order my usual large drink and a sandwich. Here we go, and I was ready for it, “what size fries do you want?” “Do you want the meal?” I am thinking to myself, if I wanted fries, I would have ordered them.

Long story short, the total for the items ordered seemed a tad bit excessive, so we drive around to the window and inquire about the total. “You ordered the number one meal with large fries, the number six meal with large fries, and two large drinks (one of the drinks was water).

No that is not what we ordered. The poor girl says, “let me get my manager, and we will re-ring your purchase”. The final total was only two dollars less than the first one. At this point, I want to forget the whole thing, and go somewhere else, but, not wanting to hold up the line behind us, we pay for the items, and the girl has given us an extra-large fry and a free cookie for the mix-up.

I am not knocking people who work these types of jobs, actually, I don’t know how they do it day in and day out, especially these days. People can be flat out rude and demanding. I am just saying that if they will just give me what I order and quit trying to force me to purchase extra items, I can go about my day and you can sell those fries to someone that really wants them. I have never been one of those demanding customers, it is just not in me to treat another human being that way. I do not like confrontation, either. But if you keep trying to force me to purchase items I do not want and will not eat, I will go somewhere else and try my luck there.

Since I have past experience working in food service, I can tell you that this is not an easy profession. You basically have to put up with all kinds of abuse because the customer is always right; when I was being trained for the job, this one the first thing I was told. Fast forward 30 years later, and that logic does not apply anymore. The customer is not always right, and it is your job to set them straight. Sometimes, people go out of their way to be obnoxious at restaurants and do it on a daily basis. They seem to get their jollies out of belittling people who are just trying to do their job.

Be kind to people working in food service, I used to be one of them. They are here to serve you and get you on your way. When they try to upsell you any item, they are doing what they are trained to do. If you order piecemeal off the menu, then they should recognize that you do not want anything extra, as it would be wasted. If I just want a large cup of ice, don’t try to sell me fries with it. If I just want a drink and a sandwich, don’t try to talk me into getting a number one because its cheaper. Just ring up my order and let me go on with my day. Please don’t ask me three times if I want fries with it, if I didn’t order them to begin with. That is all.

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